Laws of Life 6

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Some military adages that translate to real life. From Scott Rainey’s page.

If it’s stupid but it works, it isn’t stupid.

Self-explanatory, I guess. It is the rejoinder to malcontents assigned a task that, in thier narrow and limited view, doesn’t appear to have a point.

Never go to bed with anyone crazier than yourself.

… But then that means that if you are following this saying, then you have to always be the crazier one. … Which means … they shouldn’t be going to bed with you.

The important things are always simple; the simple things are always hard.

It is important to know you shouldn’t smoke. That’s simple. Quitting smoking is the part that is not easy. I think that is the sense of the saying.

Killing for peace is like screwing for virginity.

Oliver’s Law: Experience is something you don’t get until after you need it.

A related saying, called the Vern Sanders Law: Experience is a hard teacher because it gives the test first and then the lesson.

Education is best without any structure but yours

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Learning. My learning style is to open a book and learn stuff, but only when I want to and only about what I want to learn. That had guided my level of academic mediocrity throughout high school and university.

I guess if what you want to use university for is to answer your questions rather than being guided as to what questions they want you to be asking yourself, then that is the path to acedemic mediocrity. Einstein was seen as mediocre in university and had an office job issuing patents to make ends meet before he offered the world his special and general relativity theories. The same was true for Newton, seen as a mediocre math student in Oxford before the Bubonic plague kept him at home thinking obsessively about optics, gravity, and calculus.

The polite thing to say about me is that I am – ahem – not smart in the same way, but the sameness is just in how other assessors saw us. Frankly, when Covid hit, which is a firecracker next to the dynamite that was the Bubonic Plague, I was gaining weight and struggling to stay motivated and engaged with life. No scientific or math breakthroughs for me. Any assessor who thought me as mediocre back in uni would have had their every observation confirmed during Covid.

I did coach, administer and mark several math contests over the past two decades. That’s something, and it is something better than mediocre. I am now leading math clubs, along with Computer Science clubs as my school’s only full-time computer science teacher. Again, not many people would volunteer for any of that. So yes, I may appear mediocre in some circles, but when the rubber hits the road, I gravitate to what is challenging, and rise to the challenge, while urging my students to do the same.

But what about academic achievement? I had to make up for what I didn’t learn on my own, due to my following my own curiosity in any academic programme rather than follow the curriculum. I never surrendered my natural curiosity to forces from academe, regardless of the carrot of higher academic honors being dangled in front of me. In our culture, it seems that learning, even from grade school, boils down to that kind of a tradeoff. I never get a sense that there was ever room for compromise.

Most people give up their special set of questions to pursue what they are told, and it seems they end up comfortable, but losing their natural curiosity, believing that learning is hard, learning is not natural unless you have a pre-digested curriculum with pre-digested questions to answer. These are questions you are not necessarily asking; questions you are not necessarily curious about.

I was always confused as a child as to why I did so poorly in school. I would ask my counsellor why he thought it was. He said he didn’t know. So, it was unknown to science or something? These days, it seems quite simple. My will to learn was never really tamed or never really broken to conform to other’s expectations. Pursuing learning for its own pleasure was one of the few pleasures I seemed to be able to have in my teens, and the nice thing about this pleasure is that it is perennial. So, as a result, I always favoured the self-indulgence of asking my own questions, doing my own reading, and finding things out for myself.

The energy I devoted to that meant I had less energy for the course material at hand. But on some deep level I also didn’t find the idea of giving up my freedom to learn in exchange for a high mark to be that worthwhile a tradeoff. It seemed that the way the education system was set up was to make you feel less competent to do basic things in life, which ought not to be rocket science. Making easy things seem hard is not the mark of a good educational system.

The Laws of Life 5

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A law of Murphy. One of many.

Murphy’s Law

“If anything can go wrong, it will.” This is the law named after aerospace engineer Edward Aloysius Murphy, Jr. (1918-1990). It is the law which encapsulates the seemingly chaotic nature of inanimate objects in the popular imagination. That wasn’t how Murphy intended to have his law interpreted. As an aerospace designer specializing in safety-critical systems, he invoked it as a philosophy of defensive design against worst-case scenarios for making durable, robust systems.

finagle’s law

Despite this, Murphy’s law has spawned many satirical and jocular interpretations over the decades. There was Finagle’s Law, for example. While there was no one named Finagle behind the law’s name, science fiction editor John W. Campbell, Jr. (1910-1971) used the law repeatedly in his commentaries. The law is a slight extension of Murphy’s law: “If anything can go wrong, it will — at the worst possible moment.” This is also often referred to as Sod’s corollary to Murphy’s Law. Not sure who “Sod” is.

resistentialism

There is Resistentialism, a jocular theory which states that inanimate objects have a “spiteful character”, and they exhibit a high degree of malice towards humans. This is probably well-known to anyone who has spilled coffee on themselves.

hanlon’s (heinlein’s ?) razor

As an antidote to the nutty Resistentialistic theories involving objects with wills of their own, there is Hanlon’s Razor, which reminds us to “never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” “Hanlon” is probably a corruption of “Heinlein”. Science fiction writer Robert Heinlein, who wrote in a novel Logic of Empire in 1941: “You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity”. It turns out that it can be attributed to someone named Hanlon, however. A fellow named Robert J. Hanlon of Scranton, Pennsylvania.

I invoke something close to Hanlon’s Razor whenever I can’t find something I am looking for. Rather than thinking “someone stole it” or “someone moved it”, or “it grew legs and walked away”, I find it entirely adequate to think that I have misplaced it and it will turn up, and it usually does.

Variations on Murphy’s law

  • When you attempt to fix a minor malfunction you will cause a major malfunction.
  • It’s on the other side. This can be either Preudhomme’s Law of Window Cleaning, or the Fant Law of Searching for Keys in Your Pocket.
  • Lost articles will only show up once you replace it. This is seen by some as a confirmation of objects that grow legs and walk away, since once they “know” I replaced it, they walk right back into view.
  • The cost of the repair to a broken item is in direct proportion to its original cost. And the cheap, crappy stuff you have lasts forever.
  • Enough research will tend to support your theory. I am sure you will find a source somewhere that says inanimate objects have wills and intentions, and can grow legs. Somewhere.
  • Cargill’s 90-90 rule of software programming:The first 90% of the software project takes 90% of the time. The last 10% takes the other 90%. Where did the other 90% come from? Yeah, that’s kind of the point. And just in case you were wondering, they weren’t referring to 90% of the remaining 10%. This one was attributed to Tom Cargill of Bell labs, as to the tendency of projects to appear to meet deadlines, until they don’t.
  • Logic allows us to arrive at the wrong conclusion without being ashamed.
  • When all else fails, read the instructions.

The Laws of Life 4

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Kinds of knowing

There is knowing that you know;
Knowing that you don’t know;
Not knowing that you know;
and not knowing that you don’t know. This last one is the most dangerous.

The Dunning-Kruger Effect

This is the idea where some people fancy themselves as experts in some field when in fact they are incompetent. They in fact don’t have the competence to know they are incompetent. We are all victims to this effect, to some extent. Many studies have confirmed, for example, that most of us believe we have above-average intelligence, which is statistically impossible. But at the extreme is anosognosia. Anosognosia is associated more with brain defects that seems more like dementia. The sufferer is rendered unaware of their dementia or that their cognitive skills are in decline.

The Big Fish, Little Pond Effect (BFLPE)

Being highly competent among a small group of less competent individuals is better for one’s self-esteem than the same person being among a larger group of more highly competetent people.  BFLPE is related to the Dunning-Kruger Effect in that manner, except that it is a factor affecting one’s actual success in their chosen field, since it links directly to self-esteem.

Sutor, ne ultra crepidam

Latin: “Shoemaker, not beyond the shoe.” Or, don’t make pronouncements beyond your expertise. This kind of sums up the last two ideas.

The Laws of Life 3

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The Dilbert Principle

Scott Adams

“The most ineffective workers are systematically moved to the place where they can do the least damage: management.” This was coined by Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert comic strips. I have seen this manifested in my life of people promoted to managerial positions. In 1996, Scott Adams, also an MBA graduate from Berkeley, wrote a book named The Dilbert Priniciple (Amazon link) which, while satirical in intent, is often recommended or required reading at many business schools, and has sold more than a million copies and was a New York Times bestseller for the better part of a year. This is very closely related to …

The Peter Principle

Laurence J. Peter

This is the idea that all employees will rise to the level of their own incompetence. It is apt, since what do organizations do with their best employees? They promote them to management. But it becomes a very different job, not a job which uses the skills that made them so great at the previous job. While the Peter Principle allows that management were at least competent at their previous job; the Dilbert Principle allows for the possibility that management is formed out of a need for damage control. The Peter Principle (direct PDF link), a book co-written by Laurence J. Peter (1919-1990) and Raymond Hull, is the 1969 book which first came up with this.

The laws of life 1

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This will be a short series exploring the laws which seem to govern our lives. There will be one or more laws, followed by some kind of discussion.

These are taken from a canonical list of eponymous laws mentioned on Wikipedia.

Betteridge’s law of headlines

“any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word ‘no'”. To Continue Ian Betteridge’s quote: “The reason why journalists use that style of headline is that they know the story is probably bullshit, and don’t actually have the sources and facts to back it up, but still want to run it.”

Examples are: “Is Trump going to improve Obamacare?” or “Should you pay $20,000 for that perfect Espresso shot?” or “Will robots replace workers by 2030?”or “Should we treat incels as terrorists?”

Examples exclude any title that is a “Wh” question (as in Who, What, Where, When, Why), or a “How” question, where the article might actually have something worthwhile to offer. You have to instead look for that “clickbait” intent.

This also relates to clickbait videos on YouTube. I rarely watch any video whose title ends in a question mark, because I can sense what’s coming. Mostly bafflegab, with little actual information or evidence. One that I like is a recent video on my science feed that asks the question: “Has quantum mechanics proved that reality does not exist?” By applying Betteridge’s Law, you can save yourself 11 minutes you will never get back. Same for one of my Tolkien vloggers, who asks the questions “Did Gandalf really die? And does it matter?” No to both questions. It’s genius.

Affirmations by Danielle LaPorte

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If staying indoors due to covid depresses you, Canadian author Danielle Laporte challenges us to believe in the power of love and further challenges us to view life as beautiful and full of possibility.

Right now …

  • … there are Tibetan Buddhist monks in a temple in the Himalayas endlessly reciting mantras for the cessation of your suffering and for the flourishing of your happiness.
  • Someone you haven’t met yet is already dreaming of adoring you.
  • Someone is writing a book that you will read in the next two years that will change how you look at life.
  • Nuns in the Alps are in endless vigil, praying for the Holy Spirit to alight the hearts of all of God’s children.
  • A farmer is looking at his organic crops and whispering, “nourish them.”
  • Someone wants to kiss you, to hold you, to make tea for you.
  • Someone is willing to lend you money, wants to know what your favorite food is, and treat you to a movie.
  • Someone in your orbit has something immensely valuable to give you — for free.
  • Something is being invented this year that will change how your generation lives, communicates, heals and passes on.
  • The next great song is being rehearsed.
  • Thousands of people are in yoga classes right now intentionally sending light out from their heart chakras and wrapping it around the earth.
  • Millions of children are assuming that everything is amazing and will always be that way.
  • Someone is in profound pain, and a few months from now, they’ll be thriving like never before. From where they are, they just can’t see it .
  • Someone who is craving to be partnered, to be acknowledged, to arrive, will get precisely what they want — and even more. And because that gift will be so fantastical in it’s reach and sweetness, it will quite magically alter their memory of angsty longing and render it all “So worth the wait.”
  • Someone has recently cracked open their joyous, genuine nature because they did the hard work of hauling years of oppression off of their psyche — this luminous juju is floating in the ether, and is accessible to you.
  • Someone just this second wished for world peace, in earnest.
  • Some civil servant is making sure that you get your mail, and your garbage is picked up, that the trains are running on time, and that you are generally safe.
  • Someone is dedicating their days to protecting your civil liberties and clean drinking water.
  • Someone is regaining their sanity.
  • Someone is coming back from the dead.
  • Someone is genuinely forgiving the seemingly unforgivable.
  • Someone is curing the incurable.
  • You. Me. Some. One. Now.

Found on Facebook

While you are quarantining and social distancing …

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Sir Isaac Newton, along with some personal notes written in Greek.

Other, greater people have done great things in quarantine way before you were born. I already knew that the late Sir Isaac Newton discovered things like optics, gravity, and the rules for Calculus. But what I didn’t know is that in the two years he did so, he was in his early 20’s, and England suffered an epidemic of The Bubonic Plague, known as The Great Plague, in the years 1665-1666, long before infectious disease were known and understood.

Prior to that he was thought of as an unremarkable undergraduate student, according to Wikipedia. But given two years cooped up where he lived and avoiding the Plague gave him time alone to come up with his brilliant theories on classical mechanics, using calculus to explain it mathematically.

Truth and Action

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Pontius Pilate answered a life-and-death question with a question: “What is truth?” We recognize his response as a indecisiveness masking avoidance behaviour, since truth is well-defined, requiring evidence. Generally, even the answer to the question “What is truth?” needs argument and evidence.

But truth without evidence is undefinable. It can be anything we want it to be. “What is truth?”, asked as if truth were some abstraction, is a discussion that leads nowhere. Like watching shadows in a cave, we can never be sure what the substance of the shadow is doing if we don’t see it, but we can look to the shadow for evidence. True, we may get the wrong idea, but there’s a pretty good chance of getting most of it right. Our brains are wired to put such things together. And though our perceptions may be wrong sometimes, ignoring those perceptions and assimilations is normally seen as foolish and naive.

We can never see everything there is to see in life, but nevertheless, life expects us to make sense of the world around us given our limited perceptions and world view. And the critical decisions we make affecting our lives are almost never based on perfect information. But we often base decision on the degenerate data available, further informed by past experience, and often are expected to render such judgements, whether it is in our line of work, or our daily lives. More often than not, not deciding is often more damaging to one’s future than deciding. With a decision, at least you have a way to base a future plan for coping with any consequences. In life, there is no fence-sitting. Deciding not to decide is still a decision. And it is a decision with consequences.

 

Eldred, Saskatchewan on the map … barely

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Eldred,SK_near_debden
This satellite shot of Eldred and environs pretty much all that mankind seems to know about Eldred at this point. Take note of Eldred Lake, about 5km southwest of Eldred. Eldred itself is near the top centre of the image.

I’ve written about obscure Saskatchewan communities before. Here is another community far to the north of Unity. My ancestors from France settled here.

Many of my ancestors were pioneers that broke new farming ground nearest to a community called Eldred, Saskatchewan. Eldred was about 10 km northwest of Debden along rural route 55. You need to at some point go off-road to an unnamed road to get there. My mother said that it is a community that no longer exists. Well, it appears to exist to someone operating Google Maps, since I can now find it in pretty much the place mom said it was in, so there is no mistake.

So, at this point, it appears that Eldred is not much more than two crossroads: one unnamed road ending on another unnamed road. One is accessible to RR55, and Canwood RR494 (another road); and the other is accessible to RR793. There would be a few homes huddled close together within a 500-metre distance of each other going by this aerial shot, but that’s about it.

At the highest resolution, I can count no more than a dozen or so houses near that intersection. The farms haven’t gone away; they are still there. Eldred is 103 km northwest of Prince Albert, where I went to high school.

Nearby Eldred Lake appears to be just a large slough, being fed only by rain runoff from the surrounding land. I see no river that feeds into it.

In Memoriam – Part 2

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lauren+bacall1
Lauren Bacall.

Here is a link to the start of this series if you haven’t read it yet.

  • Lauren Bacall (12 Aug). She appeared in several movies alongside Humphrey Bogart. She was 89.
  • Oscar de la Renta (20 Oct). Fashion designer, dead at 82.
  • Dr. Ronald Colapinto (3 Jan). Toronto surgeon best known for developing an intervention which spared many patients from major surgery. He was 79.
  • Pat Quinn (23 Nov). Former Toronto Maple Leafs player, hockey coach, and manager, died at age 71.
  • Merle Bourwis (22 Nov). The oldest living Canadian as of Nov 22. Sum Ying Fung thereafter became the oldest living Canadian (see part 1). Bourwis died at 113.
  • Arturo Licata (24 Apr). It is surprising how rare it is for a supercentenarian to be male. But males living to age 111 such as Arturo Licata are rare in comparison. This would be the world’s oldest male whose age can be verified. He lived in Enna, Italy for all of his life. Sakari Momoi of Japan is 111, and is now the oldest male still living.
  • Jack Bruce (25 Oct). Former Cream lead singer and bassist, dead at 71.
  • Charles Keating (9 Aug). Actor in movies, the TV soap opera Another World and audiobook narrator, passed away at 72 of lung cancer.
  • Bobby Womack (27 Jun). The Soul/R&B singer passed away at age 70.
  • Bob Suter (9 Sep). Former 1980 Winter olympic hockey player (Miracle on Ice), passed away at age 57 suffering from a heart attack.
  • Theodore “Dutch” van Kirk (28 Jul). The pilot who flew The Enola Gay in World War II died at age 93.
  • Sid Caesar
    Sid Caesar

    Sid Caesar (12 Feb). 1950s comedian and television personality. Dead at 91.

  • Richard Attenborough (24 Aug). Famous actor and director, who directed films such as Gandhi, which won eight Academy Awards. He was 90.
  • Keith Davey (17 Jan). The Canadian politician, Senator, and campaign organizer and member of The Order of Canada died at age 84 after a battle with Alzheimers.
  • Jim Flaherty (10 Apr). Canada’s Conservative finanace minister until this year, died suddenly of a heart attack at age 63.
  • James Garner (19 Jul). The TV and movie actor known for playing Jim Rockford in the show The Rockford  Files, passed away in Los Angeles after a period of having heart problems. He was 86.
  • Johnny Winter (16 Jul). The albino blues guitarist for The Edgar Winter Group died after a concert in Zurich, Switzerland at age 70.
  • Ann B. Davis (1 June). Known for her role as housekeeper Alice Nelson on The Brady Bunch. She was 88.
  • Harold Ramis (Feb 24). Former Second City troupe member, contemporary of Dan Akroyd, John Belushi and Bill Murray, he directed blockbuster comedies such as Animal House, Meatballs, Caddyshack, Analyze This, and Ghostbusters. He was 69, after succumbing to a rare disease.
  • Tommy Ramone (11 Jul). Former drummer of the 70s punk rock band The Ramones, and the last surviving original member of the band, died at age 62 after a battle with cancer.
  • garbiel_g_marquez
    Gabriel Garcia Marquez

    Gabriel Garcia Marquez (17 Apr). Columbian author and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, died at age 87 in Mexico City after a battle with complications leading to pneumonia.

  • Casey Kasem (15 Jun). Radio personality best known for his hosting the radio program American Top 40 for over 20 years. He was 82.
  • Mickey Rooney (16 Apr). Actor in several films stemming from his childhood years, dead at 93.
  • Simone Battle (9 Sep). X-Factor performer and member of rock group GRL, committed suicide at age 25.
  • Jimi Jamison (31 Aug). Lending his heavy metal guitar stylings to the rock band Survivor after their success seemed to be on the wane, he helped generate at least two top-selling albums and several more singles. He died at age 63 of a stroke.
  • Ralph Waite (13 Feb). Played father John Walton in the TV serial The Waltons, died peacefully at age 85 in Palm Desert, California.
  • willardboyle
    A digital photograph of Dr. Willard Boyle. You knew this was coming.

    Willard Boyle (7 May). Canadian physicist, Order of Canada companion and Nobel Prize winner, did research which paved the way for digital photography for which all web designers and bloggers remain in debt. He was 86.

  • Knowlton Nash (24 May). Longtime anchor of CBC’s The National died at age 86.
  • And last but not least, British singer and guitarist Joe Cocker, dead after rumors of them were not shown to be exaggerated, died of lung cancer in Crawford, Colorado on 22 December.

In Memoriam 2014 – Part 1

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Miss_Beazely_and_her_human
Miss Beazely (2004-2014) once spent quality time with her owner.

Well, this post may well need to be broken up into a few parts due to the number of people I had heard about who had passed away this year. This year also marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

  • Phil Everly (Jan 3), one half of the influential vocal duo The Everly Brothers. He was 74.
  • George Hamilton IV (Sep 17), one of many country singers. He was 77.
  • Jesse Winchester (Apr 11). Another country music singer who produced 12 studio albums passed away at age 69.
  • Peter Seeger (Jan 27), politically active folk singer, involved in music almost to the end of his 94 years of life.
  • Edward Greenspan (Dec 24). Canadian defense lawyer and author of legal books. Died in Arizona of cancer at age 70.
  • Shirley Temple (Feb 10). The first child actor on film who later became politically active died at age 75.
  • Miss Beazely (17 May). The presidential Scottish Terrier of George W. Bush died at age 10 after a battle with cancer. It was named after a character in Oliver Butterworth’s 1956 Children’s story The Enourmous Egg.
  • Wallace McCain (13 May). Founder of the McCain food empire, this Nova Scotia native was 81.
  • Maria von Trapp (18 Feb). The real-life Maria Franziska von Trapp, the last of the Trapp family singers to survive, has died at age 99. The Trapp Family had inspired movies such as The Sound of Music. She is not to be confused with stepmother Maria Augusta von Trapp who was also part of the same family and was studying to be a nun.
  • Clifford Olson (30 Sep). Serial killer from B. C. who died in jail of cancer at age 71.
  • Alicia Rhett (3 Jan). Former actress best known for her role as Wilkes in the 1939 film Gone With The Wind, died at age 98.
  • lwren
    The 6′ 3″ fashion designer L’Wren Scott, next to her love interest Mick Jagger.

    L’Wren Scott (17 March) aka Laura “Luann” Bamborough, a haute couture fashion designer to many Hollywood actors and actresses and long-time girlfriend of Mick Jagger, committed suicide at age 49. She was found dead in their Manhattan apartment by an assistant.

  • Jean Beliveau (2 Dec). The former star player for the Montreal Canadiens died at age 82.
  • Wayne Robson (4 Apr). The actor who played Mike Hamar on The Red Green Show, died at age 64.
  • Alan Blakeney (16 Apr). Saskatchewan NDP premier for over two decades Alan Blakeney had died at age 85.
  • Sum Ying Fung (6 Dec). Up until this month the oldest living Canadian, she died peacefully at age 113 in her home in Burnaby, B. C.
  • Paul Revere (15 Sep). Former front man for the 60s rock group Paul Revere and the Raiders, died at age 75.
  • H. R. Giger (12 May). Swiss surrealist whose work became the centre of controversy when one of his paintings was used on the inner sleeve for a record album called Frankenchrist by the punk rock band The Dead Kennedys. He was 74.
  • Robin Williams (11 Aug). Famous comedian, committed suicide at age 63 after battling with addiction. Article.
  • Joan Rivers (4 Sep). American comedienne, born Joan Alexandra Molinsky and known for her controversial humor and wit. Died at age 81.
  • Maximillian Schell (1 Feb). Oscar -winning actor of Swiss-Austrian heritage, died at age 83.
  • Seymour Hoffman (Feb 2). Former actor, director and producer found dead in his Manhattan apartment from a drug overdose. Suicide appeared to be ruled out. He was 46.
  • marionbarry
    Fomer DC mayor Marion Barry

    Marion Barry (23 Nov). Former mayor of Washington DC known for his civil rights activism and for his fight for racial equality. He was 78.

  • Bob Casale (17 Feb). Former member of the early New Wave band Devo died at age 61.
  • Rehtaeh Parsons (7 Apr). This 17 year-old Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia girl committed suicide. This act was notable due to its association with cyber-bullying following a sexual assault. She is also notable for being by far the youngest person on this list.
  • Ariel Sharon (11 Jan). Former Israeli president died at age 85.
  • Maya Angelou (28 May). American author and civil rights activist died at home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina at age 86.
  • Anna Henderson (1 July). The world’s oldest living person, and the world’s 6th oldest living person whose age at death is beyond dispute has died at age 114 in Philadelphia.

The Chances of Winning the Lotto

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There are many lotteries called “Megabucks” thoughout the United States, similar in many ways to the Canadian “Lotto 6-49”.

Winning the lottery is how many people believe they will become financially secure in their lives. In fact, about one person in 4 believe  this.

The chances of winning a lottery like the Massachusetts Megabucks lotto or the Ontario Lotto 6-49 are based in the idea that, out of 49 numbers available, you choose 6 numbers once each. Chosen that way, there are 13,983,816 ways of winning, or close to 14 million ways. If you have only one lotto ticket, then your chances are 1/13,983,816 = 0.000000715, give or take a billionth or two.

It would be fun to summarize what those chances are actually like in relation to other things.  Here we go, from my research:

  • You are 500 times more likely to die by murder or execution
  • You are 248 times more likely to be struck by lightning
  • You are 140 times more likely to die from a bee sting or a snake bite
  • You are 21.5 times more likely to be killed by terrorists
  • You are 20 times more likely to be killed in a traffic accident on you way to buying a lotto ticket
  • You are 14 times more likely to correctly guess someone’s PIN number
  • You are 14 times more likely to be consumed by a rare strain of flesh-eating bacteria
  • If you buy 50 tickets a week you could win once every 5000 years
  • You are 6.992 times more likely to die when our Earth collides with an asteroid, ending all life on Earth as we know it

But any non-participants out there don’t need my lecture. They have something better: What if you spent $10.00 on lotto tickets for 35 years? Multiplied out for thirty-five 52-week periods, becomes $18,200.00 If you had instead invested that same money in, say, a mutual fund over the same number of years at $10.00 per week, you would have $100,314.56, which is about $80,000 in profit.

Apart from it being a sure thing, it is a significant gain in wealth over what would have happened if the money was squandered on lotto tickets.

Schooling and Unschooling

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It is not clear as to whether Dayna Leigh Martin has the lock on the market of ideas comprising the “Unschooling” movement, however, her meandering explanations, when put together, make it unclear to an onlooker such as myself as to whether this is viable, and if it is, whether it is something every family can do.

Well, Ms Martin is not even close to being the only one advocating unschooling. In fact, there are many in her company that have their own radical ideas.

I like radical ideas. I agree with her sentiments. Personally, I sucked at math until I was out of school and taught it to myself. That included calculus, also. I am also largely self-taught in computer languages, have built my own computers, and also have enough knowledge of my car and my moped to do minor to mid-size repairs. I am living proof that learning is just what humans naturally do, and it might appear that school is unnecessary.

But of course to say so, I misrepresent the facts. If we only look at my numeracy, technical, and trades knowledge, I clearly benefitted from unstructured, independent self-teaching. But without school I still would not have had the facility I have for literature, for Shakespeare, would never have bothered with Chaucer (but was glad someone had exposed me to it), for the importance of keeping up with current events, and for rounding out my literacy generally. Without my teachers in early school, I probably would not have had the confidence I had in adulthood to fill in my own gaps in math.

Self teaching is not for everyone. For one thing, as I understand it, only a teacher can grant credit, leading to graduation and a grade-12 equivalency to proceed to college. But even so, not everyone would have had my patience or persistence in teaching myself the basics of the math I failed to learn in the earlier grades.

Martin has confidence that if learning feels good to a child then that is the learning that should be facilitated. However, a child cannot see the future further than their own nose, and sometimes, if they want to become an oceanographer, for example, then that requries study in a surprising number of fields, many of which may seem unrelated to their topic as a child. Sometimes the learning experience may be unpleasant, since it may require the learning of things the child perceives as boring. There are many kinds of learning which may seem unpleasant at the time, but the rewards were delayed until later. I found this for teaching myself computer languages. You could try compiling a program literally hundreds of times before it would work, but once it did, it was a great feeling. There is a lot of learning that in this way, involves tolerating a great deal of frustration and not giving up. I am unsure if a child would see that on their own.

Children also change their minds, as well. Today’s budding oceanographer becomes tomorrow’s budding astronaut. Is a parent really going to follow the whims of the child around that much, or will there come a time when today’s lesson will be on “focus” and “persistence” (a lesson that the child may not want to hear)? A child in a public system can accomodate the changing of a child’s mind more easily than a parent.

Another problem I have is that for the most part “Unschooling” takes as its basis an assumption (not enitrely untrue) that schools act as enforcers of social norms and of a pecking order in society. Seen from this perspective, schools teach obedience, and there is an overwhelming consciousness that this is the way schools always were.

This is far, far from the case. Schools have been around in its present form for less than 200 years. Unschooling, as I see it, is a return to the days before organised schooling, when parents passed their knowledge and literacy, and skills on to their children. This was a necessity on the farm, as well as at the Blacksmith shop in town.

The family, thus, had an exceedingly important role that nowadays is being invaded by psychologists, psychiatrists, educators, counsellors, test-taking agencies, and even marketers, who have jointly acted to remove that power from the family. This saddens me, and in the past decade, the Internet, cell phones, and other electronic gizmos has further invaded their consciousness, even minimizing further the sphere of influence of parents. It is becoming apparent that nowadays, parents feel they have so little to pass on to their children that they become as disposable as cogs in an assembly line which must make way for next year’s model of car.

Also, children learn better in an environment where they are not judged. In a school they are passed, failed, diagnosed with ADD and the like; they compete for attention with 24 other children, and the teacher is somehow expected to reach all of them. But I don’t think that will even happen in the best classrooms of that size. In a family setting, they are more likely to be understood on their own terms and judged less often. Making mistakes becomes less of a public embarrassment and more a part of the learning process.

But not every parent believes that “not controlling” their children is the way to raise them. I can see many parents having a problem with that mentality. Obviously, you have to know what you are doing, and what is it exactly do you mean by “control”, anyway? Children have a kind of wisdom that is unburdened by later biases and indoctrinations; but at the same time, they do not have the gift of foresight and wisdom that allows parents to pass on worldly knowledge to the young which they could have not learned any other way. Far from merely facilitating learning, adults have something meaningful and worthwhile to pass on to children. Discipline is also something to pass on. It gives you the gift of pursuing bigger and better learning goals. The kind of goals you can’t achieve by digging things out of the dirt or by reading a book with pictures in it.

A child who is unschooled can only be as competent as his or her parents. The parents involved cannot be expected to be competent at all subjects. I don’t think I would be competent in all subjects either.

Judging by the blogs I’ve read on the subject, many which have not been updated for some years, for most parents the passion tends to burn out soon enough, and it becomes a fad. Dayna still practices un-schooling, and preaching the gospel to anyone who will listen. However, for whatever reason, one of her websites, http://unschoolamerica.com, has been taken down and its domain parked.

Signs that you have become a fossilized fuddy-duddy

Hits: 17

This is an updated version of the original post found at this site. Today’s kids who will be old enough to graduate this year (we’ll say 18) will have the following traits:

  1. The kids who are now 18 were born in 1992.
  2. The Soviet Union collapsed a year before their birth (1991).
  3. Apartheid ended before they were born (also 1991).
  4. Operation Desert Storm happened before they were born.
  5. Nelson Mandela was freed before they were born.
  6. The Hubble space telescope was launched before their lifetimes.
  7. They would not have had a memory of seeing Lech Walesa become the first president of an independent Poland.
  8. They were just born the year the L. A. riots happened over the Rodney King verdict.
  9. They would have only learned about the Exxon Valdez or the Tiannanmen Square massacre either through their parents or their teachers.
  10. The fall of the Berlin Wall as a publicity stunt for Ronald Regan’s historical stature is something they have only heard about second or third-hand.
  11. These kids were not alive during the Regan era.
  12. They do not have a meaningful recollection of the era under Bush I either.
  13. Kids graduating today have not known a world where DNA evidence was not used to convict criminals
  14. Black Monday, and the stock market crash in 2008 both have the same significance to them as the Great Depression.
  15. To them, “The interenet” consists only of the Web, chat groups, and text messaging.
  16. They have never known a world that didn’t have a hole in the ozone layer.
  17. The Thriller album and video are a fossilized piece of rock history.
  18. While we’re at it, rock videos themselves have been on the decline during their lifetimes in favour of YouTube and internet videos.
  19. E. T. is a movie their parents like.
  20. Pac-man is something their parents played
  21. They have never played Atari games, except on their parent’s antique consoles.
  22. Their grandparents saw the original Star Trek.
  23. Their world has always involved the risk of AIDS
  24. Their parents were already too old for “new wave” music
  25. The original Star Wars movies are something kids see now on movie reruns or from DVDs from the delete bin.
  26. Their view of the 1970s does not seem to consist of a wasteland of K-Tel and disco.

Crappy Album Covers #61 — Cool Religion

Hits: 17

album-cover-crap-68_karate_preacherNow this is real cool. Wouldn’t you just like to go to church, and instead of those boring sermons and homilies, you instead get a preacher that knows karate, and uses it to show the power of God?

Well, Mike Crain the “Karatist Preacher” must have been packing them in, by striking down the devil every chance he gets, going by his 1975 album “God’s Power”. HIIIYYYA! He’s gonna wup some Satanic ass!

False prophets, idolators, usurers, prostitutes, dittoheads, and propagandists haven’t got a chance, as he cracks their skulls for JAY-sus! Crain looks like Mike Myers with a bowl cut.

album-cover-crap-78_zonicweb_netIt gets better. In between Crain’s homilies, David Ingles would come in and sing songs which paralyze Satan. This has the benefit of holding Satan still while Crain gives them a Karate chop, you see.

Trust me, with these two on the same bill, you would never miss a Church service again. David Ingles has his own website, and claims that God speaks to him.

He now has a daily radio program on a radio network which he owns, called the Oasis Network, and still gives regular church services in his local church Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, a suburb of Tulsa.

album-cover-crap-61_bad_santatAnd during Christmas Season, Swedish singer Eilerts Jul can fill in for Ingles as he returns to his loved ones for a break from sermons.

During the rest of the year, when he is not relieving Ingles of his duties, Jul is a furniture salesman for The Lord with television ads that play every 10 minutes, featuring talking dogs, jugglers, and magicians. After grabbing your attention with the circus performers, he gets on-screen yelling the store slogan and telling you at 300 words per minute where his store is located, and that he will not be undersold.

As part of his publicity, and to keep the local churchgoers from falling asleep (how is that possible?), he buys some of the furniture of his competitors, brings them into Church, while Mike Crain whacks them into splinters, calling them the work of Beelzebub. If you’re going to buy furniture, it must be blessed by Crain and identified by Jul as the work of the holy hands of his furniture suppliers.

You will not get Jul and his ads out of your head. He will be in your dreams. This is all good, since what is good for Jul is good for The Lord.

Crappy Album Covers #59 — Stick Figure Neighbourhood

Hits: 21

Welcome to the world of stick figures. In today’s blog, our crappy album cover collection will focus on the world of stick figures.

album-cover-crap-72_spoonsThis blog entry was named after a 1981 album from a band from Burlington, Ontario called The Spoons. I spent a while deciding whether this album cover met my standards of crappiness for inclusion into this collection of album covers. Well, here it is.

The Spoons had no hits from this record. The hits came later. The band members have changed names, and have broken up and reunited, and performed as late as 2007, but two personnel that have remained in their lineup from the beginning was Sandy Horne and Gordon Deppe. The two knew each other since since attending Aldershot High School in Burlington. The album was recorded in Hamilton. I can relate to the title. Parts of Burlington, and come to think of it, Oakville and Mississauga (these places are all close to where I live), can be thought of as stick figure neighbourhoods. Nothing like songs from the heart.

Little did The Spoons know, that their allusion to stick figures carries forward a tradition of stick figure albums that came before. To wit:

album-cover-crap-69_thriftstoreart_com

There’s nothing like stick figures to get you in the dancing mood (yeah, right). While the late Lester Lanin (1907-2004) played the proverbial “weddings, debutante balls, and bar mitzvahs” routine, he was no ordinary contract band leader. He had also played for Queen Elizabeth II, he palyed at the wedding of Prince Chuck and Lady Di, and more than one or two sitting U. S. Presidents.

So, how is it that a person with such impeccable connections couldn’t get decent album art? It could be that the album artist the company had, quit and the manager had to step in.

But I think the truth is far worse. There was a time I remember, where can u buy viagra looking at books published in the late ’60s and early ’70s, which had stick figure drawings, and usually it was found on self-help books or books with a sociology/anthropology bent. In other words, this was part of an aesthetic trend at one time.

album-cover-crap-71_thriftstoreart_com… like this one. Paul Harvey was a radio announcer for KVOO in Tulsa, Oklahoma, his place of birth, and another fellow who had impeccable credentials, winning many honorary degrees and medals, up until 2000.  He has also been given numerous awards and continues to broadcast to this day.

Once again, a legendary talent with an artless album cover. In the context of the title and some samples I have heard, at least it gets the point across.

If you look closely, these are very special stick men. They are the ones found on Male restroom doors.

album-cover-crap-70_thriftstoreart_com… and these are the ones found on the female restroom doors. Well, not quite. These are more like paper doll cutouts. Maybe as a pastime, you can count the figures to see if there are really 60 of them in the illustration.

Can 60 French girls be wrong, if they all agree on the same thing?

No information was found on The Djinns Singers, although there are many albums out there, some of them being sold on E-Bay. So, while links to this and other of their records are plentiful, it is difficult to know if there are 60 of them or 6 of them. Oh well…

Below is a stick figure animation for your amusement. These days, all kinds of people are doing stick figure animations. Don’t know if they are really popular, but they seem to have comic potential. See below, courtesy of YouTube:

Crappy Album Covers #58 — Family Bands

Hits: 12

album-cover-crap-67_familyI was going to name this blog entry “family style”, but then I remembered that was the name of a 1990 duet album by brothers Jimmy and Stevie Ray Vaughan. It would have been an insult to SRV’s memory, I thought. So, I changed it to a straight title.

Now they say that the way to raise a family is to run a tight ship. Now if you can have your family live on a real ship on the high seas and in shark-infested waters, then you have it made. You can rule the roost and threaten to make the kids walk the plank if they misbehave.

According to my reliable secret sources, this “vanity press” album hearkens back to around 1974, and Captain Hook, whose name does not appear to be revealed as otherwise, really does have a hook for a left hand. He lost a leg and an arm in a motorcycle accident and was “born again” while in hospital. Hook became a tele-evangelist in Indiana for over 20 years after he “became Christian”. He also performs ventriloquism as part of his act.

album-cover-crap-66_family_the_macksI was going to place The McKeithens in the Bad Hair entry, but it was only the hair of one person, the mother in the foreground, that I was concerned about.

The McKeithens’ self-titled LP, likely from 1976, likely marks the start of a ministry of singing and fellowship that began in 1976, and lasted until 1991. I can’t say for sure where they hail from. There is a Myspace blog about them, but it is unlikely that the family had anything to do with the blog. I mean, would a family like this make virtual friends with people with usernames such as “Lady Stinky Puss”, “Chris Crocker”, or “Phat Gurl”? Don’t think so. Clearly, the blog is set up to make fun of this record cover. However, there is almost no original content in the blog, and it appears to have been abandoned.

This would have been a plain album that would have been ignored, but for the Winebago-sized hairdo the mother has.  I think it’s a wig. A wig that large could serve a purpose, you know. You could use it to store food, prescription medication, house and car keys, a change of clothes, photo ID, passports, train tickets, the King James Bible, sheet music … all the things you need to go on an evangelical singing tour.

album-cover-crap-62_family_st_heitt

The Heitt family are a study in obscure, small Saskatchewan villages that are little known even inside Saskatchewan. If you blink as you drive past these places, you might not see them, so be careful.

Most of the family belonging to the Heitt Orchestra are natives of Revenue, Saskatchewan, consisting of not much more than two crossing roads, about 200 km west of Saskatoon, as the crow flies (more like 230 km by highway, going by Google Earth). If you look for it on Google Maps, Revenue is where the low resolution area begins.

The Heitt family consist of Brothers Larry (drums), Blaine (electric bass), and Glen (banjo); their father Frank (accordion) and mother Adeline (guitar).

The only non-family member is vocalist is Donna Boser (holding the tambourine), who lives one hour’s drive deeper into Google’s low-resolution area, and closer to the Alberta border, in Fells, Saskatchewan. Although if you ask Donna, she’ll probably tell you she comes from Reward, Saskatchewan, which is a larger community close by. The “Where the Hell is Fells, Saskatchewan?” T-shirts must be selling like hot cakes over there. Boser still sings in the same part of the province.

Donna now lives in nearby Unity. At least they paved the main highways over there. Unity is still a small town where someone spent an idle afternoon counting the houses, and Unity has 960 of them (population is about 2500). And the deal is that Fells and Revenue are much smaller than Unity. Unity boasts its own website. And here is a virtual tour of Unity, where you can see how flat it is (should take about a minute).

Crappy Album Covers #56 — Self-Help for the Helpless II: A Gallery

Hits: 17

In today’s blog, I am experimenting with another method of presenting these album covers. I am finding that doing it this way prevents me from looking at the covers directly as I am discussing them. But to see an enlarged image, just click on the ones you want to see.

But from memory, I recall I have three albums on how to stop smoking, one album on avoiding probate, and one on touch typing.

The three non-smoking records appear to promise a painless way to kick the habit, proving that no one has ever lost a dollar by promising the listener that the cessation of bad habits involves some hypnotic hocus-pocus or some other easy way out.

A record about touch typing? I’m not sure how that is supposed to work, unless it comes with a booklet.

“Probate” is a service a court provides to prove the validity of a deceased person’s will, allowing all involved parties to settle the affairs of the estate of the deceased, according to Wikipedia. This can be expensive, and the real beneficiaries to the estate could be the lawyers. Wikipedia says that establishing a living trust is a way of avoiding probate, so that is probably what is being discussed.

All album covers come from thriftstoreart.com. Another side effect of having this kind of  a gallery is that I can’t link the photos to the website. So just click on the aforementioned link, and you’ll get to these albums, and many others.

Crappy Album Covers #55 — I don't need no STIIINKING album cover artist! — I'll just do it myself!

Hits: 18

album-cover-crap-45_zonicweb_netGood evening, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the amateur hour, as our guest Manfred, presumably Manfred Voss sings you the love songs of song meister, Arthur E. Werlang.

We have to be fair here. These albums are definitely as low-budget as you can get, and it wouldn’t surprise me if  the photo of “Manfred” was scotch-taped on the cover, and the lettering was hand drawn directly on to the cover.

As is true of all of the albums in today’s entry, this album is very likely from back in the days when cutting and pasting was an act that involved xacto blades and glue, rather than a computer and Photoshop.

I just worry that our hero Manfred is singing these love songs “with a new accent”. His old accent was too obvious, so he had to make up a new one? Is that how that works?

album-cover-crap-46_zonicweb_net“Gongs: An Audio-Mystical Trip to the Orient”, by Nesta Kerin Crain claims to be “an excellent aid for meditation”. I know of few meditation aids involving gongs that I would call excellent.

This is another scissors and glue effort with more pen work than “Love Songs”.

What’s the swastika doing there in the lower right-hand corner? Creepy.

I now wonder what this album will instill in you as you are meditating while the album is playing.

I also have a certain paranoia about playing records and meditating, outside of all talk about swastikas and other nonsense: what if the record skips?

album-cover-crap-57_showandtellmusic_comThis is by a fellow named Gary Baker, who in 1982, penned an album entitled “Why?” This time, there is no cutting and pasting, just pen and pencil.

Too much is made of this existential question. Much ink has been spilled trying to pursue the meaning of the question, and then trying to formulate an answer.

One essay writer in a university-level Philosophy exam answered it best: “Why not?”

The album is supposedly Christian, but the question and the artwork seems to convey a mood of Elton John’s “If There’s a God In Heaven (then what’s he waiting for?)”, a 1976 song from his Blue Moves album. So, maybe that’s healthy.

album-cover-crap-47_zonicweb_netWhenever a title is misspelled, such as “psychodelic”, (should be “psychedelic”) you get the impression that the mistake is intentional, and that Jr. and His Soulettes are merely taking artistic license.

All fine and dandy, and if that is the case then that really changes the meaning of the word. Perhaps the album is more “psycho” and less “delic”. Hard to say.

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